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Kray family fury over 'gay' jibe for Helgeland's Hollywood movie of the East End gangsters

PUBLISHED: 20:35 06 August 2014

Tom Hardy as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray [Phot: Greg Williams]

Tom Hardy as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray [Phot: Greg Williams]

Working Titles

The Kray family are furious over reports of a new Hollywood film about London's notorious East End gangsters that may portray Reggie as gay and his marriage to Frances Shea as "a sham."

Kray twins who ruled the East End's gangland in the 1950s and 60sKray twins who ruled the East End's gangland in the 1950s and 60s

The movie by top Hollywood director-writer Brian Helgeland is being filmed in the Krays’ old haunts around Bethnal Green and Whitechapel.

Gangland figures interviewed by Helgeland have since been been spilling the beans to the national press that Reggie was also gay like his twin brother Ronnie and never consummated his marriage to Frances, who committed suicide in the 1960s—some claiming her death was “no accident.”

Kray family members still living in Bethnal Green 45 years after the twins were jailed for life for murder and extortion want to “put the record straight” before the film is release next year.

Frances and Reggie KrayFrances and Reggie Kray

“What they told the film-makers is a load of filth,” retired lorry driver Joe Lea, 89, first-cousin to the Krays, told the East London Advertiser.

“We read in one paper about Ronnie being a paedophile—we all know he was queer, but not a paedophile.

“People are spreading all this muck about.”

Kray's cousin Rita Smith and daughter Kim with family snap of Frances holding Kim as a baby [picture: Mike Brooke]Kray's cousin Rita Smith and daughter Kim with family snap of Frances holding Kim as a baby [picture: Mike Brooke]

Another cousin who grew up with the twins in Vallance Road, Rita Smith, now 78, spoke of Reggie’s “loving relationship” with Frances.

“The paper said Reggie treated Francis terrible—but he didn’t,” Rita insisted. “He loved every hair on her head.

“She was always a nervous person who we found out later tried to commit suicide when she was 13.”

Family snap of Frances Kray holding cousin Rita's baby Kim in 1962Family snap of Frances Kray holding cousin Rita's baby Kim in 1962

Rita’s daughter Kim, who has a family photo of being held as a baby by Frances in 1962, was angry at articles claiming Reggie’s marriage was “a sham”.

She said: “We read about Freddie Foreman saying horrible things about how Reggie treated Frances, that she was a virgin when she died—how would he know that?

“How anyone would know what goes on privately in a couple’s bedroom, I don’t know. They lived with each other in his mum Violet’s house in Vallance Road for two years and slept in the same bed before they married—so don’t tell me nothing sexual went on!

“Reggie loved Francs to the bones of the girl—he would die for her.”

Kim also read about Ronnie giving his sister-in-law the fatal pills over his jealousy of Reggie’s love for Frances.

“As much as Reggie loved Ronnie, he put Frances first—she always came first,” Kim insisted.

“But to suggest Ronnie gave her the pills is totally ridiculous.

“She was staying with her brother Frankie Shea because her nerves were bad. They were told to keep an eye on her and don’t let any tablets near her.

“But Frankie was out with his family when Frances found tablets in her sister-in-law’s bag and took them. Ronnie and Reggie were nowhere near.”

Those claiming the marriage was “a sham” include close friends of the Krays like music artist-manager Wilf Pine, 70, who was with Ronnie and Reggie when they each died.

He had a long interview with Brian Helgeland giving much background detail of the Krays for the film.

Wilf later told the Advertiser: “They were both gay, not just Ronnie, but it was well hidden. Reggie’s marriage was a sham.

“But Ronnie didn’t give Frances the pills which killed her—that’s rubbish.

“Frances was a beautiful East End girl married to a celebrity gangster. She was a ‘trophy wife’. Anyone who knew Reggie knew he could grind you down.”

The film, Legend, based on best-selling author John Pearson’s trilogy of the Krays, is due for release in 2015, starring Tom Hardy in both rolls as Reggie and Ronnie and Emily Browning as tragic Frances Shea.

The film crew has been at locations such as Pellicci’s café in Bethnal Green Road and other East End haunts of the Krays in the 1950s.

Helgeland also met in his research former Page 3 pin-up Maureen Flanagan, now 73, who was hairdresser to Violet Kray, the twins’ mother. Flanagan often called at their home in Vallance Road and was also with Violet when she died of cancer at the London Hospital in 1982.

Her three-hour meeting with Helgeland last week, ironically, was in Whitechapel’s once-notorious Blind Beggar pub where in 1966 Ronnie Kray shot dead George Cornell, henchman of the Richardsons’ rival mob, for calling him a “big fat poof”.

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